Wu-Tang Clan’s Beatles Sample Claim A Bit More Complicated Than Previously Thought

noah | October 3, 2007 6:13 am

The Wu-Tang Clan song “The Heart Gently Weeps”–which you can listen to at Oh Word–was, according to a post on the hip-hop group’s blog earlier this week, the first-ever song to use a cleared Beatles sample, a fact of such epic import that the release date of the Clan’s forthcoming 8 Diagrams had to be pushed back from Nov. 13 to Dec. 4. The only snag? If you look at the details of the “first-ever sample” claim, it kind of falls apart:

It’s a composition sample and not a master sample that you’ll hear on the track, meaning that the Wu did receive permission to use Harrison’s song, but not in its original, as-heard-on The White Album form. Rather, it’s been “interpolated” — literally, changed by adding some new material — with new lyrics from Wu rappers Ghostface and Raekwon. Harrison’s son, Dhani, plays guitar on the song.

“In this case, the Beatles’ master sample is not being used and has not been approved by Apple Records,” the Beatles’ label, said Randall Wixen, the founder of Wixen Music Publishing, which handles publishing rights for the Harrison estate. “The composition of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ has been interpolated into the Wu-Tang song. The elements have been replayed by Dhani Harrison.

“There’s nuance to [the Wu-Tang’s] claim. They have not [been] cleared [by] the Beatles, they have cleared a song made popular by the Beatles,” Wixen added. “All I know is that we were authorized to proceed with the Wu-Tang Clan.”…

“EMI freaked out about this whole thing, but it’s less about a major corporation talking to another major corporation, it’s more like two friends — RZA and myself — talking about working together,” Dhani Harrison said. “[The RZA] asked me to see if he could use the song, which is owned by us [the Harrison Estate], and we said yes. It’s not the original master — they’ve never been cleared — but the song is used compositionally.

“I play a bit of guitar on it, John Frusciante played some guitar too, and Erykah is on there,” he continued. “I haven’t heard the final version, but whatever capacity the RZA wants to use all of those parts in, I’m sure he will.”

The Wu-Tang Clan has stepped back from the original claim, using the term “interpolation” for the way they’ve incorporated “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” But the funny thing? 8 Diagrams is still coming out on Dec. 4, despite the “magnitude of the sample and the History being made” being slightly dimmed. (The song, however, is very very good.)

Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘First-Ever Cleared Beatles Sample’ Claim Is Incorrect [MTV]